There are many aspects that go into making good video games stand out from their peers. The narrative, graphics, compelling characters and game mechanics, along with many other features, affect the quality of the gaming experience.
However, all of these factors are influenced by one key element: the setting in which the events of the game occur. Post-apocalyptic and futuristic sci-fi worlds are popular representations in the world of video games. With so many options to choose from, it’s hard to find a single representation of such a world.
Therefore, this article does not present a list of the best video games of the genre. Instead, it focuses on titles that challenge and redefine the boundaries of these worlds with their unique representations.
Note: This article reflects the views of the author.
5 Sci-Fi Video Games That Have The Best Features Of The Genre
1) Cyberpunk 2077
CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 is probably the most popular and hyped entry on this video game list. It offers the most comprehensive open-world approach to the futuristic sci-fi genre. The protagonist, V, is a mercenary outlaw in search of a rare implant that grants the user immortality.
Features such as cybernetic body modifications, branching scenarios based on player choices and character type, and character relationship dynamics combine to deliver a unique and refreshing experience.
The vast and sprawling Night City provides a vibrant and futuristic backdrop to the events of the game. The city is filled with NPCs for players to interact with who reveal new stories and side quests, adding to the lore of this unique world.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, Windows, Stadia.
2) Horizon Zero Dawn
Horizon Zero Dawn is an award-winning action RPG from Guerrilla Games. The story is set in the 31st century, when machines dominate and roam the earth like colossal wild beasts.
Aloy, the protagonist, must traverse these lands and defeat these beasts on a journey to unearth her own past as well as the origins of these machines.
What sets this game apart is the fact that humanity has been portrayed as paramount in this futuristic setting. Despite having access to more advanced technology in the form of these machines, humans have reverted to hunter-gatherer tribes who revere their land. The game combines sci-fi and mythical elements in a masterful way.
The vast open world has also been reclaimed by nature, with vast forests, wastelands and ruins. The mechanical beasts that roam the land add a unique environmental element to the game as they serve as hostile enemies as well as objects from which to mine resources.
Platforms: Playstation 4, Windows.
3) No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky is an exploratory science fiction game developed by British company Hello Games. The game got huge hype before its release. Despite mixed reviews, there’s no denying that it offers one of the most unique experiences in this genre of video games.
Players can explore multiple procedurally generated worlds, with each world having its own ecosystem. The game is based on exploration and the search for resources. From the depths of the ocean to the farthest reaches of space, No Man’s Sky has it all.
The goal is to survive by farming the resources of different planets in the multiple galaxies on offer. Each planet has unique flora and fauna, as well as various resources available.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, Windows, Mac OS, Nintendo Switch, iPad OS.
4) Half-life 2
Half Life 2 is probably the most critically acclaimed game on this list. Released in 2004, it won numerous awards and attracted a cult following desperate for a sequel. It is a sci-fi first-person shooter set two decades after the events of its predecessor.
The protagonist, Gordon Freeman, is thrust into the future into the unknown reaches of City 17. What makes this game unique is the immersive experience it offers. There is no explanatory sequence that provides the details of the world or the lore. Instead, players have to figure things out as they go, mirroring Gordon’s lack of understanding and providing the ultimate role-playing experience.
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox, Xbox 360, Windows, Linux, Android.
5) The Bioshock Series
Bioshock is a series of action-adventure FPS video games. The game explores the depths of an underwater dystopia called Rapture. In order to progress, players must biologically and genetically modify themselves to gain upgrades.
The combination of action with horror themes, as well as the unique underwater setting, makes the game stand out. The architecture and environmental elements of Rapture are also based on literary works such as “Atlas Shrugged”. This adds another layer of uniqueness to the game.
The morality-based theme along with the unique environments sets these games apart from others. Bioshock is considered one of the best series in all of video game history and is a testament to gaming as an art form.
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Android.
5 Video Games That Offer A Unique Spin On The Post-Apocalyptic Genre
1) Death Stranding
Death Stranding is an action game developed by the legendary Hideo Kojima. It takes place in a post-cataclysmic representation of the United States where dangerous and hostile creatures roam the lands. The protagonist, Sam Porter Bridges, is tasked with delivering supplies to isolated settlements scattered across the open world.
The game combines the genres of stealth and action meticulously. However, the world building in the game is what sets it apart from other video games in the genre. The vast and expansive Chiral Network, open world, creative enemy designs, and general gameplay mechanics all create a unique storytelling experience like no other.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows.
2) The Fallout series
Fallout is a series of action-based role-playing games. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the series is probably the most popular of this genre of video games. The various titles take place in the 21st, 22nd and 23rd centuries, in a world ravaged by nuclear annihilation.
It’s a genre-defining series that set the benchmark for other post-apocalyptic games. The vast gallery of rogue beasts, massive open world, and arsenal of weapons and equipment combine to create a vast world for players to explore and enjoy.
The game also provides players with knowledge and exposure in creative ways, such as old newspapers and telecommunications. The addition of companions in the form of animals like dogs also adds a unique new mechanic rarely seen in this genre of video games.
Platforms: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows, Mac OS, DOS, Android, iOS.
3) NieR: Automata
NieR: Automata is an action-based RPG developed by Platinum Games. It is the second game in the series and is set in the year 11945. The game explores the events of the 14th Machine War and consists of 27 unique endings based on achieving specific conditions. Humanity has fled to the moon and the Earth is now inhabited by androids who have left to defend the planet.
The open nature of the narrative and the change of perspective between the different characters make the game a unique episode in the genre. The visual art style is also extremely refreshing, and the gameplay seamlessly blends multiple genres to create a dynamic and fun experience.
The combat mechanics as well as the desolate and abandoned towns where the fights take place make this a unique entry in this list of video games. The action, setting, and art style really make players feel like powerful anime protagonists.
Platforms: PlayStation 4. Xbox One, Windows, Nintendo Switch.
Tom Clancy’s The Division offers a unique blend of offline and online cooperative gameplay in the form of a post-apocalyptic tactical shooter. The game is set in New York, highlighting the aftermath of a deadly pandemic. Players take on enemy factions alone or with up to three friends in an online co-op experience.
The relevance of a tactical approach to firefights is extremely gratifying. The loot system, customization and availability of PvP as well as PvE items make The Division a rather interesting take on this genre of video games.
Loot shooters aren’t exactly the rarest commodity in the post-apocalyptic video game genre. However, the uniqueness here lies in the execution. The use of the familiar New York location as the setting also contributes to the feeling of immersion and realism.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows.
5) Far Cry New Dawn
Far Cry New Dawn is a spin-off and semi-sequel to Far Cry 5. It is set seventeen years after the events of its predecessor. Far Cry 5 ended with fictional Hope County, Montana being ravaged by a nuclear explosion triggered by Joseph Seed.
Players take on the role of an unnamed protagonist, similar to Far Cry 5, to battle antagonists in this post-apocalyptic world.
The title is a unique entry in this list as it takes place in a dystopian world based on the events of another game in the series. To add more realism to this setting, it uses a smaller version of the Far Cry 5 map, as several areas have been made inaccessible due to radiation. Several accessible areas have also been redesigned to reflect the effects of nuclear fallout.
Despite its short runtime, Far Cry New Dawn is a standout effort from Ubisoft and does justice to other video games in the franchise.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, Stadia.